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Vital
Docs

No one should stay homeless for want of a birth certificate. 

And yet they can. Wings is here to make sure that doesn't happen. We get people their vital documents to help them break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. 

 

Did you know you can't get a birth certificate without an ID? And you can't get a new ID without a birth certificate. Many of our unhoused neighbors get trapped in this pit of contradiction. We help them out. 

Office Hours

  • Every Thursday, from 10:30am - 12:00pm

    • Downtown Santa Cruz Public Library on Church St​

  • Every 2nd Friday of the month from 1:00pm - 2:30pm​

    • Watsonville Public Library​

Why birth certficates?

Most of us take our vital documents for granted. Maybe our parents got our birth certificate when we were young and, when we were old enough, they gave it to us, and we used it when we needed it, like applying for our first job.

 

But there are some people who have never seen their birth certificate.

 

Or they had it in their house, which they were kicked out of.

 

Or they had it in their tent but it, along with everything else they own, was stolen or damaged by the weather. 

Wings is here to help people get (and store) their birth certificates so they can access a wide array of societal programs. Here's the most common things you need your birth certificate for:

  • Getting a job

  • Enrolling your kids in school

  • Getting a Section 8 housing voucher (every person in the household needs a birth certificate in order to qualify, even babies)

And here's what you commonly need an ID for:

  • Opening a bank account

  • Accessing some medical services

  • Enrolling yourself in school

  • Signing up for government benefits

  • And so much more!

These things are essential to breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty - and they can all hinge on ONE document: a birth certificate. 

Our Vital Docs services are often combined with our other services to help support people on their journey out of homelessness. See how we helped Darren at multiple points on his journey, including a birth certificate to get him housed.

How It Works

  1. Anyone experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness is eligible for our Vital Docs services. 

  2. There are two ways to request a birth certificate:

    1. Fill out this online pre-request form (recommended)

      • Complete this form for each individual requesting a birth certificate.

      • If the birth location is in California, an in-person meeting will be required (no appointment necessary, see office hours below).

      • If the birth location is outside of California, you will be contacted regarding next steps. Don't forget to hit SUBMIT at the end!

    2. Come to our office hours:

      • Every Thursday from 10:30am - 12:00pm @ the downtown Santa Cruz Public Library. ​

      • 2nd Friday of every month from 1:00 - 2:30pm @ Watsonville Public Library.

  3. At office hours, volunteers will fill out a form with the client and then send in the request. If there is more information or other steps needed, the volunteer will let the client (and their case manager, if present) know what the next steps are. 

  4. A volunteer will contact the client to let them know that their birth certificate is ready to pick up at the next office hours. 

    1. If clients do not have a way to be contacted, they can choose to leave someone else's contact info like a family member or their case manager. 

  5. If desired, Wings can store the birth certificate, free of charge, indefinitely. The client (or case manager) can check out the birth certificate as needed and then check it back into Wings' storage. This is a great option for people worried about losing their documents or the documents getting damaged. 

FAQ

  • How long does it take to get a birth certificate?

    • For Santa Cruz County birth certificates, it takes an average of 1-2 weeks. For all other CA counties and US states, it typically takes 3-4 weeks.  For some complicated cases it can take upwards of 8 weeks. Out of country birth certificates are on a case by case basis. The bottom line: request it early!

  • Where do you get funding for this program?​

    • We are able to provide our services because of the generosity of our community as well as through Santa Cruz CORE funding. 

  • Do your services cost anything?​

    • Thanks to our funders, we are able to offer our services free of charge to those experiencing homelessness or at risk of it.

    • Our Vital Docs Program costs us around $35,000 per year, which is roughly 1/3 of what it would cost a traditional agency to run the program (hiring, training, and managing staff to deliver services in an office space, etc). Every dollar invested in us does the work of three

  • Do you help people get other documents?​

    • Occasionally there is a need for other vital documents, such as death certificates or marriage certificates, to help someone break the cycle of homelessness. We can help people get those, too! The most common time this is needed is when applying for social security death benefits from a spouse. 

    • Only the DMV can provide IDs and Driver's Licenses, however, we can help clients get them at a reduced rate. Come to our office hours to find out more. 

  • Do I have to consent to my data being in HMIS to get these services?​

    • No, you will never be required to have your data be part of the secure Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) that our community uses.  

    • However, keep in mind that data in HMIS can help our program receive funding, which means we can continue to offer these services. More accurate data in HMIS also helps us better gauge need in the community and better serve our clients. 

  • How can I support this program?​

    • There are so many ways!​

      • Make a donation​

      • Sign up to volunteer This involves filling out an application, getting a background check, and if you are selected, an initial time commitment of 3-4 hours for orientation and training. From there you can let us know your availability and we will work around it. As a volunteer you will interact directly with our clients and you will get to see the joy on their faces when you make a difference in their lives.

      • Tell your friends about our work! Like, comment, and share our social media content on Facebook, Instagram, and Linked In

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